Learn how your IELTS writing task is marked and the difference between band scores 5,6,7 and 8. The examiner will mark your writing on the 4 marking criteria below. Also, get useful tips to learn how to increase your band score by fulfilling the requirements of each marking criteria. In this article, we will go through the official IELTS Writing assessment criteria.
Here are the 4 IELTS writing assessment criteria
- Task Achievement
- Coherence & Cohesion
- Lexical Resource
- Grammatical Range
Task achievement is your ability to rightly connect your answer according to the question.
Task Achievement (TA) = how well you answer the question.
To increase score for TA:
- Present the information accurately
- Answer all parts of the task
- Provide a clear overview
- Highlight key features and support detail with data (Academic task 1)
- Give a clear position, have a definite opinion (Task 2 and General task 1)
- Supporting your body paragraph with data (numbers and dates if possible)
- Write a factual report.
Avoid Sitting on the Fence
When was the last time you read a news article or academic article? Think back to what you read. Did the writer present a clear argument? Did you have any doubt about the writer’s point of view? You should avoid producing writing like this for the IELTS Writing test. This is true for both General Training and Academic tests. Take a position and defend it. The examiner will be looking for a clear position. To help you understand how to do this, let’s consider the various types of essay question. The IELTS Writing Task 2 question you face will most likely fall into one of three categories: problem and solution, opinion and discussion.
Problem and Solution
This kind of question will refer to a well-known issue that anybody can understand and express an opinion about. Some examples are: ageing populations, climate change, migration, crime or deforestation. For this task, you need to clearly describe the problem and propose a reasonable solution.
Should we care about the national dress of the culture we come from? Is it a good idea for people to be completely free to use harmful substances? Do international sporting events make us get along better? These are the kinds of questions that you might have to write about. Notice that none of these refers to a problem per se. Rather, they are asking you to give your opinion. For a question like this, make it clear what your opinion is and motivate it.
Homeschooling or mainstream schools? State-funded healthcare or private? Public transport or cars? These questions require you to describe two opposing arguments and pick which one you prefer. It’s important that you make it very clear where you stand because if this isn’t clear, it will be difficult for someone to say you have answered the question. By all means, consider two sides of the argument, but when you do so, make sure it’s clear which side you personally favour.
Can I Refer to my Own Personal Views and Experiences?
The answer to this question is a resounding “Yes”. You should not be afraid to talk about things from your own point of view, using the first-person pronouns “I” and “we”. Often, the question will even specify that you should do this. It is clear when someone has tried too hard to avoid using these pronouns. The writing will often sound clumsy or unnatural:
One could come to the conclusion that private healthcare is more effective.
A better way to write this would be:
I maintain that private healthcare is more effective.
Express your ideas naturally. Remember, your aim is to communicate. Drawing on your own experiences, or the experiences of other people will almost always result in writing that sounds authentic and natural.
Planning is the key
It is obvious when someone has written without planning first. Often, words will be left out, erased or crossed out. Paragraphs will run on too long, straying from their original topic. It is well worth it to spend a few minutes at the beginning of your test sketching a plan before you start writing. Once you finish writing, look back to make sure you have dealt with everything. There is no penalty for requesting paper, but if you’ve planned adequately you should be able to fit everything on the first sheet you’re given. If it’s been a while since you had to plan and write an essay or report, it will be worth your while to practice this before test day.
Another handy tip for test day: make sure you know how many words you average per line in normal handwriting. If you fail to reach the word count, you will be heavily penalized. If you know how many words you typically fit into a line, you can do a quick count at the end for peace of mind. You definitely won’t have time to waste on counting word for word. Once you’ve finished writing, you should reread your essay and ask yourself questions like: Have I answered the question? Have I stuck to the topic?
IELTS Writing assessment criteria
There are 4 British Council Official scoring criteria. They are – Coherence & Cohesion, Grammatical Range, Task Achievement, Task Achievement
Coherence & Cohesion
Coherencemeans the connection of ideas at the idea level, and cohesion means the connection of ideas at the sentence level. Coherence refers to the “rhetorical” aspects of your writing, which include developing and supporting your argument (e.g. thesis statement development), synthesizing and integrating readings, organizing and clarifying ideas. The cohesionof writing focuses on the “grammatical” aspects of writing.
Coherence and Cohesion (CC) = how well is your text structured.
To increase score for CC:
- Manage paragraphing (ideally four body paragraphs)
- Plan where to put your information
- Make sure that each paragraph has a central idea
- Use linking words and cohesive devices (firstly, in contrast, thus, in my opinion, to sum up etc)
- Use referencing (this, it, etc)
Simply put, coherence means “structure” (paragraph and essay structure).
To get a high score in Coherence and Cohesion, your essay and paragraphs should follow the structure below:
The introduction tells the reader what the essay is about and what it will do
- General statement about the topic
- Specific statement about the topic
- Thesis statement (what the essay will do)
Each paragraph should have one central idea
- Introduce the central idea
- Explain the central idea
- Give an example to illustrate the central idea
- Conclude the central idea
The conclusion restates the thesis and summarizes what the essay did
- Restate thesis
- Summarize what the essay did
- Give an opinion/recommendation/prediction
The central idea of each body paragraph should be linked back to the thesis statement in your introduction and should be reiterated in your conclusion.
How to improve Cohesion?
Cohesion means flow. This is how well your ideas follow from one to the next with seamless and logical transition. As you develop your paragraph, your ideas must be related to each other and they should be logically linked with referencing and linking words.
Referencing words refer to pronouns, like this, these, it, etc. You can use these to link an idea in one sentence to an idea in the previous sentence.
Another way to connect ideas is to use linking words. These are words like however, on the other hand, for example, therefore, etc. But be careful! Like salt and pepper, you should use these sparingly. To score above a 7, you should not include more than two of these kinds of words in your paragraph. Overusing them will bring your coherence and cohesion band score down.
Lexical Resource focuses on the range of vocabulary a candidate uses. Lexical Resource is a productive module because you need to generate your thoughts and ideas. It is challenging to generate vocabulary to create any thought. The more you use a wider range of vocabulary correctly and appropriately, the better you score in IELTS exam.
Try to add useful vocabulary in the IELTS exam that is unusual and uncommon. For example, instead of ‘modern technology’, we can write ‘cutting-edge technology’. Lexical Resource is not rocket science. Neither is it is not about using very uncommon, great or any fancy words. You only need to understand that topic-related vocabulary is sufficient.
Lexical Resource (LR) = how good is your vocabulary.
To increase score for LR:
- Use a wide range of vocabulary
- Use less common lexical items
- Avoid errors in spelling and word formation
- Use vocabulary for presenting accurate data
- Don’t use the wrong words or informal language
The examiner will always look at your range and accuracy of vocabulary and see how well your words help you to express your thoughts. You must know these tips to impress your examiner.
No Repetition of Words: Do not overuse common nouns, verbs, and adjectives. You may lose marks because of keep repeating the same basic vocabulary. If you use simple words, like ‘growing’ in one sentence, substitute the same word in another sentence with ‘increasing’ or ‘burgeoning’. This makes you impress the examiner, and they might give you the desired score. Usually, there are better and advanced synonyms for almost all words. A good IELTS score specifically depends on your choice of words.
Don’t Copy Words Directly from Task: It is always advised to the candidates not to copy words directly from the task. It will leave a wrong impression on the examiner and will lead to poor marks in the examination. Copying is always a bad idea, so we will advise you to practice and always try to reframe the sentence. Don’t forget to use synonyms if it is required and appropriate to the topic.
Original: More and more people these days prefer social networks to keep in touch with friends and families.
Paraphrase: Nowadays, social networks are preferred increasingly often for contacting friends and families.
Don’t Paraphrase Every Word: Accept the fact that you can’t paraphrase every single word. There are many words which have synonyms, but that doesn’t mean another substitute or synonym will be able to give the same essence of the sentence. Be careful about this; strong words may slightly differ the context. Using synonym can be tricky, and the meaning can be somewhat different. So, use a synonym when are 100% sure and you know that this will ultimately enhance the sentence.
For example,‘Mediocre’ is the synonym of ‘Poor’.
- He is poor. This shows his financial status.
- He is mediocre. Here the mediocre word is not giving the same meaning of the sentence. You can’t write mediocre to express the financial status of a person.
Use Collocation: Collocation allows you to express your thoughts easily. A collocation is more concise, crisp and looks natural. It shows that you have good command over the language.
For example, ‘He is getting a tattoo’ not ‘He is making a tattoo’.
Understand the difference between the two sentences and realize the importance of collocation in a sentence. This will only come when you practice more and more. Achieve your desired band with the practice and show that you know how to use words effectively to make a proper sentence.
Learn Topic-related Vocabulary: Our range of vocabulary shows how rich our language is in terms of words. To show a wide range of vocabulary, you need to know specific topic-related words. Try to learn basic words that are associated with fields and industries. It will help you to use appropriate vocabulary with the connected topic.
For example, when you write an essay on the medical field, you may prefer to use words like, cure, heal, prescription, disease, etc.
Your grammatical range is based on sentence structures, tenses, control of grammar and the number of mistakes. To increase your score for grammatical range use a range of sentence structures, use of right tense and word order. Punctuation plays a very important role in a good grammatical range score. Also, the less grammatical mistakes you have the higher your grammatical range score will be.
Grammatical Range and Accuracy (GRA) = how good is your grammar.
To increase score for GRA:
- Use a wide range of grammatical structures and tenses
- Manage punctuation
- Avoid errors in sentences
- Use right punctuation
How to improve Grammatical Range?
To show mastery of English grammar, you must be able to write different kinds of sentences in various structures/syntactical forms in your essay. This is what is meant by Grammatical Range.
Therefore, candidates must write a mixture of sentence types.
Examiners expect to read the following sentences:
1. Simple sentence: subject + verb + complement (noun or adjective)
2. Compound sentence: simple sentence + coordinating conjunction (i.e. and, but, or, nor, yet, so and for)
3. Complex sentence: simple sentence (also known as an independent clause) + 1 or more dependent clauses (i.e. that, which, when, where, why, who, because, since, etc.)
4. Compound complex: 2 simple sentences + 1 or more dependent clauses
Take a look at these examples:
1. Hard work is important. (SIMPLE SENTENCE)
2. Hard work is important, and it is beneficial for everyone. (COMPOUND SENTENCE)
3. Hard work is important because it enables anyone to achieve something. (COMPLEX SENTENCE)
4. Hard work is important, and it is beneficial for everyone because it enables them to achieve something. (COMPOUND COMPLEX)
Take a look at the sentences in your IELTS Writing
Your score on Grammatical Range and Accuracy will be greatly affected by the kinds of sentence you write down. If most of these are just simple sentences, examiners will not have the evidence they need to award you higher band scores. A combination of these kinds of sentences will boost your band score for this particular criterion.
Before writing, plan for your paragraphs to contain the different kinds of sentence. Most will be simple sentences. Compound and complex sentences will only appear a few times for the simple reason that most ideas are best expressed in a simple way. Therefore, the most complex kind – which is compound-complex – are expected to be used a couple of times only.
Your writing coach will be able to explain how you could improve your IELTS Writing to enhance your use of grammar.
Don’t rush off to practise only complex compound sentences…
As Grammatical Range as the focus of this article, you are now probably obsessed about constructing compound sentences. But remember that you need to show a variety of sentence types.
Complex compound sentences are not a panacea for your writing. They are the tool which separates medium IELTS Test performance from a higher level performance. Remember, also, that the sentences you write should still possess cohesion, coherence and unity.
Your writing needs to present evidence of many writing skills. Learn and practise them one by one until you master them.
What do IELTS Examiners want?
IELTS Examiners are looking for a mixture of simple, compound and complex sentences, and also a range of grammatical structures within your sentences. Here’s what their assessment criteria say:
- Band 5: uses only a limited range of structures; attempts complex sentences but these tend to be less accurate than simple sentences.
- Band 6: uses a mix of simple and complex sentence forms; makes some errors in grammar and punctuation but they rarely reduce communication.
- Band 7: uses a variety of complex structures; produces frequent error-free sentences
- Band 8: uses a wide range of structures; makes only very occasional errors
- Band 9: uses a wide range of structures with full flexibility and accuracy; any errors are ‘slips’ (i.e. forgetfulness, not because of a lack of grammar)
Note that your IELTS grammar does not need to be perfect, even at Band 8. To get a Band 6 or Band 7, it is better to attempt things like complex sentences, and make mistakes, than not to attempt these sentences…unless the grammatical mistakes make understanding difficult.
IELTS Writing British Council Rubrics Score Card
Each of these four criteria receives a score from 0 to 9 points. After that, an arithmetic mean is calculated to determine the task’s total score.
For example, if Task 1 gets the following marks:
- Task Achievement: 6.0,
- Coherence and Cohesion: 7.5,
- Lexical Resource: 7.0,
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy – 7.5.
then score for IELTS Task 1 is (6.0+7.5+7.0+7.5)/4 =7.0.IELTS writing total score
Note that Writing task 2 weights two times more than Writing task 1.
So if you get 8.0 for task 2 and 6.5 for task 1, the total score for IELTS Writing Section is 8.0*(2/3)+(6.5)*1/3=7.5.
AccioIbis for improving your writing
Getting 7+ for IELTS needs some techniques along with practice. There are mainly 4 criteria that you have to focus on :
Coherence & Cohesion – It depends on the structure of the essay, it’s readability, understandability and meaningfulness. The content should have a proper flow and shouldn’t jump back and forth between ideas. It also depends on whether the pronouns used in the essay are justified and the corresponding nouns are already present in the essay.
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Ex: They are my friends. – If there is no mention of “who” the word “they” refers to before this sentence, the score would be low.
Lexical Resource– It depends on how varied is the vocabulary that is used in the essay. If more words are repeated, this score will be lower.
Grammatical Range – It depends on the number of grammatical and spelling mistakes made in the essay. If there are more mistakes, the score would be low.
Task Achievement – It depends on how well is the essay related to the given question and if the essay goes off-topic at times.
Total score – It is the combination of all the above parameters along with a score that is calculated based on the number of words and sentences used in the essay. Hence, a shorter essay will get a lower score.
It’s very hard to know your performance for the above skills and it’s necessary for a good band score.
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